Mr. Patrick O’ Donovan T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW), today announced that admission charges to all fee-paying openOPW heritage sites are being waived in line with the Government’s recovery and reopening plan outlined in The Path Ahead. With inter-county travel possible once again and museums and galleries allowed to reopen earlier this week, this measure will support the domestic tourism industry and local businesses relying on it by incentivising people in Ireland to discover, enjoy and cherish the many OPW heritage sites, parks and museums spread across the country as they plan their staycations this summer. The measure is effective immediately and will remain in force until the end of the year.
“We are in the early stages of the recovery phase of the pandemic, but we are all beginning to enjoy the brighter days we have waited for and looked forward to so much over the past months,” the Minister said today, continuing:“Throughout lockdown, the OPW kept the parks and gardens it manages in cities and the country open wherever it was possible to do so safely, and, as a result, provided important amenities for our wellbeing in a difficult time. Since the careful and gradual easing of restrictions in late April, we have been able to open the outdoor spaces at many historic heritage sites and on Monday this week, the doors of such iconic attractions as Brú Na Bóinne Visitor Centre, Dublin Castle and Kilkenny Castle opened to visitors again. With a growing list of open heritage sites and the easing of travel restrictions, we have a renewedopportunity to explore the treasures which the OPW holds in trust for the nation. I think that the initiative I am introducing today as part of the Government’s recovery plan will appeal to people who are exploring options for staycations this year.”
Before Covid-19, OPW’s visitor attractions would have welcomed over 9 million visitors a year – many of them international visitors – contributing significantly to cultural and heritage tourism in Ireland. 2021 will be different, as all easing of restrictions at OPW’s sites is done carefully and in line with public health guidelines, ensuring the safety of our staff and visitors so that we can continue on the path to recovery. However, there are already 54 out of 90 OPW sites with visitor services open either in part or fully around the country, meaning there is something for everyone to discover and enjoy. Neolithic tombs older than the pyramids at Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth and Loughcrew; stone forts like Dún Aonghasa; medieval castles in Trim and Cahir, historic battle fields like the Battle of the Boyne in Oldbridge; magical islands like Garinish Island in West Cork; stately homes sitting in beautifully landscaped parks such as Castletown House in Celbridge, Doneraile Court in Co. Cork, and Emo Court in Co. Laois; the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, Derrynane House, and Patrick Pearse’s summer cottage in Ros Muc to name just a few. The list is much longer and enticing, and visitors are encouraged to make use of the map on www.heritageireland.ie to plan outings, mini breaks or holidays in order to see which sites are nearby and what their opening and booking arrangements are.
Research by Fáilte Ireland indicates that significant numbers of domestic visitors cited history and culture destinations as one of their motivating factors for visiting places in Ireland. For a second year in a row, the Minister has therefore acted to capitalise on, and contribute to, the domestic tourism market by making all of OPW’s heritage sites that would normally have an admission fee free for all citizens looking for an enjoyable way to spend their holidaysin 2021.
“The economy has suffered a huge shock because of Covid-19,” the Minister said, “and the pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge to Ireland’s tourism sector where so many people depend on a strong visitor economy to provide them with jobs. Government continues to support businesses in the tourism sector and the OPW heritage sites will play a part in the path to recovery by making it attractive cost-wise for individuals and families to visit.”
Although Covid-19 restrictions remain in place at the sites that are open, and interior spaces, in particular, are subject to measures to ensure physical distancing can be maintained, with limits on numbers and access to certain closed and confined spaces not available, OPW still hopes to offer visitors an enjoyable and memorable experience in some of the most important historic buildings and sites in Ireland with admission charges lifted for the remainder of the year. At the same time, all OPW-managed parks and gardens that are freely accessible to citizens will continue to play a vital role in facilitating a summer of outdoor activities in line with the Government’s key message to “think safe, think outdoors”.
The Minister concluded: “As a society, we have all endured a huge amount in the past few months and I’m hoping with this measure to remind people of what’s on their doorstep here in Ireland and encourage them to help Ireland’s tourism industry to make it through 2021. Hopefully people will be able to discover something new or maybe they’ll be able to relive a childhood experience of visiting one of our country’s iconic monuments with their own families, but I’d encourage everyone to get out there and see what Ireland has to offer.”
A full list of the OPW sites is available at OPW Heritage Sites or check www.heritageireland.ie for additional information on each site including opening times, booking requirements, contact details, etc.
Photography from the launch will be available from Naoise Culhane Photography firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Barry Nangle at 087 147 0617.